Close×

Bill Bryson is not your average travel writer and as these book extracts show his wicked sense of humour and fierce intelligence make for entertaining reading.

If you are a fan of travel memoirs you would have heard of Billy Bryson, an American travel writer who loves to explore the more interesting and quirky parts of the world. His books are humourous, personal and always entertaining. Here are extracts of 10 of his most popular books.

“Australians … spend half of any conversation insisting that the country's dangers are vastly overrated and that there's nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it's okay now because he's off the life support machine and they've discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.” ― In a Sunburned Country

“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret. ― A Walk in the Woods

"How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state – in short, did nearly everything right ¬– and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things – to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view." ― Notes from a Small Island

“I was particularly taken with an article about a pub called the White Post on Rimpton Hill on the Dorset–Somerset border. The county boundary runs right through the middle of the bar. In former times when Dorset and Somerset had different licensing laws, people had to move from one side of the room to the other at 10pm in order to continue drinking legally until 10.30. I don’t know why but this made me feel a pang of nostalgia for the way things used to be.” ― The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

“It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we've been endowed with. But what's life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours—arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don't. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment's additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be.” ― A Short History of Nearly Everything

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea – or actually we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.” ― At Home: A Short History of Private Life

“Just a month after the completion of the Declaration of Independence, at a time when the delegates might have been expected to occupy themselves with more pressing concerns – like how they were going to win the war and escape hanging – Congress quite extraordinarily found time to debate business for a motto for the new nation. (Their choice, E Pluribus Unum, "One from Many", was taken from, of all places, a recipe for salad in an early poem by Virgil.)” ― Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States

“At the foot of the mountain, the park ended and suddenly all was squalor again. I was once more struck by this strange compartmentalization that goes on in America – a belief that no commercial activities must be allowed inside the park, but permitting unrestrained development outside, even though the landscape there may be just as outstanding. America has never quite grasped that you can live in a place without making it ugly, that beauty doesn't have to be confined behind fences, as if a national park were a sort of zoo for nature.” ― The Lost Continent

“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.” ― I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away

“To be fair, English is full of booby traps for the unwary foreigner. Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman’s apparel is clearly asking to be mangled.” ― The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way

Book extracts_Bill Bryson

 

comments powered by Disqus